“I knew a kid like that in high school,” Mulder says, one hand fiddling with his ticket stub, the other pulling her closer by the hip.
He pinches her just above the waistband of her jeans. “An orphan.”
The sidewalk is dark and mostly empty but for the other people streaming out of the movie theatre around them. One of the lights on the marquis advertising The Cider House Rules flickers. On-off, on-off.
“Ah,” she says, not disinterested.
“He lived in one of those group homes. Went through four or five foster families, I think, before they finally tossed him out when he turned eighteen.”
“Mm. That’s awful.”
“It was, yeah. He was a good kid, though.”
She pats his hip, then slips her hand up and rubs his back beneath his leather jacket. They round a corner, and he kisses the top of her head.
“It’s sad,” he says, “how many kids are like that.”
“It is,” she agrees, tightening her scarf with her free hand. The December air nips at her cheeks. It smells like snow.
“Babies, even,” he says. “Too little to remember their parents. Just waiting for someone to give them a home.”
They slow. She can feel him looking at her, gauging her reaction, waiting for something.
“Little ones, Scully. Just waiting for a mom.” He clears his throat softly. “Or a dad.”
They stop in the circle of a streetlamp, and she turns towards him. His face is apprehensive but unguarded. A little bit nervous.
“It’s just sad,” he says, reaching for her hands, his palms warm. “How few people adopt.”
Scully grips his fingers tight. Something like nausea but better bubbles low in her stomach. “What are you saying?”
He steps closer, bending over her in that way that makes her feel small, protected. His voice is nearly a whisper when he says, “I’m saying there’s more than one way to have a baby.”
The weight of his words, of their unexpected earnestness, rocks her. It has been almost two months. Almost two months since the last round of IVF failed. Two months since they took their hopes and packed them away, sealed the boxes with tape and put them on the farthest shelves in the backs of their minds. Or so she thought.
“Mulder…” Her voice quivers just a little and he squeezes her hands.
“I just want you to know, if that’s ever something you want…if you decide you’d like to try… I’m here.” He lifts one of her hands to his mouth and kisses her fingertips.
She brushes her thumb over his bottom lip and shakes her head. “Mulder, I… I don’t know. I haven’t… I mean—”
He drops her hands and pulls her closer by the waist, bending down until they’re nearly forehead to forehead. His eyes are so serious. He means this so much, she realizes, and she wants to look away from the intensity of it all, but he is everywhere.
“I’m not saying let’s go to an agency tomorrow. I just want you to know that it’s on the table, okay? That’s all.” His breath puffs out in clouds against her lips and she swears she can taste his words. Like cotton candy, like lemonade, like a sweet, sticky future. “Okay?”
She nods slowly. Dazed. “Okay.”
His lips touch hers briefly, sealing the deal. They are warm and soft, and for a moment, she feels a fresh wave of mourning for a child that will never be. A child with that mouth and that chin and her eyes, maybe.
But then his hands are in her hair, thumbs smoothing along her temples in a gesture so him, so Mulder, and she sees a child who looks like neither of them but acts like both. Her rationale, his easy confidence. Baseball and books and an E.T. lunchbox on the first day of school.
It’s gone as soon as it comes, but she tucks away the feeling, marks it maybe so she’ll remember to come back. She lets him kiss her between the eyes and tuck her under his arm. She slides a hand into his back pocket for safe keeping.
They start walking again, huddled close but moving slowly, warmed by this fragile thing between them.
“It was a good movie,” he says, after some time.
“It was,” she agrees.
By the time they reach his car, the first snowflakes have begun to fall.